Thursday, July 11, 2013

No right to deny spoon feeding to Canadian woman.

Alex Schadenberg
Yesterday, I responded to the article in the national post that claimed that a woman in BC was being denied her "right to die" because the institution where she lived continued to feed her normally. by stating:
To intentionally deny a person the basic necessaries of life, such as feeding by spoon, is a form of abandonment. 
To intentionally cause a person to die, who is not otherwise dying, by dehydrating that person to death, is ethically the same as euthanasia. 
Care-givers should not be forced to act in a manner that they are convinced is unethical. 
Wesley Smith
Bioethicist, Wesley Smith responded on his blog to the Bentley case with the following article titled: No Right to Die by Denied Spoon Feeding. Smith stated:

A Canadian woman directed that she be refused medical treatment, and indeed, that she be euthanized if she had Alzheimer’s and could not recognize her children. She has the disease and is spoon fed.  But the family wants that stopped.. From the National Post story:
According to Ms. Hammond, she is lifted into and out of bed with a hoist, spends her time virtually motionless in a wheelchair and is kept alive only through regular spoon-feeding.  
“She’s not taking it by choice, that’s clear,” said Dr. Andrew Edelson, Ms. Bentley’s doctor, who suspects the whole feeding process is purely reflex.  
“She doesn’t have the ability to make choice and if she had the ability to make choice, she would refuse; she’d clamp her mouth shut and nobody would try to feed her,” he said. 
Under typical circumstances, Ms. Bentley would already be dead. Metro Vancouver has no shortage of seniors who have drawn up explicit end-of-life directives and do-not-resuscitate orders, and those are usually respected, according to Dr. Edelson. 
“I’ve spoken with a fair number of health professionals about this case, and everybody is dismayed, to say the least; we’re shocked that this is happening,” he said.
Baloney. She isn’t being forced onto medical machines, given unwanted CPR, or indeed, being fed by tube. She is alive because her body hasn’t shut down and she can eat and drink. Under these circumstances it would be shocking–and criminal–if a medical team withheld food and water from a helpless woman capable of–and actually taking–nourishment.

This is a classic case of mixing apples and oranges. People have the right to direct that medical treatment be denied, but spoon feeding isn’t medical treatment. It is humane care–the least we owe everyone.

Are we now going to allow vulnerable patients to be denied food and water when the can–and are–eating? And can you imagine forcing medical staffers to be complicit in an intentional starvation/dehydration under these circumstances?

If she eats, she eats. If she drinks, she drinks. Nobody should have the power to order themselves starved in advance when they can take food and water through natural means.

The headline says that starving her–again, when she is eating on her own!–would be to allow her to “die with dignity.” Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?


Anonymous said...

If this woman opens her mouth automaticly when she is spoon fed, that means she is hungry and happy to get food and drinks. I have fed many Alzheimer patients in the same condition Dr. Andrew Edelson talks about. This is tha last thing we can do for them. Feed them what they like and physicaly take good care over them so they are as confortable as they can be and yes they will eventually die on their own terms. Don't let them suffer when they are thirsty and hungry!

Lily said...

Dr. Edelson is full of it! When I was in hospital there was a lady in the bed next to me with dementia who was spoon fed and when she didn't like a certain food she smacked the spoon away she did the same when she was upset but the nurses were very calm and nice and would calm her down and find something she liked to eat.